Sure, it’s not unlike the New York Post be sensationalist, but, because it is a quiet-ish news week between Christmas and New Year, I am taking a story it published today on a drop in Instagram users with a little more than a grain of salt.
Basically, it notes that figures from AppData demonstrate that Instagram lost 4 million daily active users — nearly a 25% drop to 12.4 million from 16.4 million — between December 19 and December 26. And as the NYP terms it, people are walking away in a “rage against rules” because of Instagram’s new, more commercially-minded terms of service — which it rolled back on December 21, i.e., in the middle of its DAU decline, in response to public outcry.
Now, I should point out that I personally really like Instagram, both as a way to post my own pictures, but also as a way of viewing those by others. But I’m no apologist, either. So here are some further observations that give a slightly bigger picture about what is going on:
– Yes, AppData notes that Instagram lost 4 million DAUs over the holiday period, as based on Facebook logins via the app. But it’s also seen some gains (according to the same data): weekly active users in that period are up by 1 million (currently at 28.5 million), and monthly active users are up by 1.1 million (currently at 43 million). DAUs also seem to be up a bit since Christmas, and it’s now down by only 3.5 million over the last 7 days.
– There are other photo apps that have seen fluctuations in DAUs and MAUs in the last week. Look at Hipstamatic, or Snapseed, or Flickr, whose well-timed launch made some people wonder whether it could replace Instagram.
– The NYP story compares this to last Thanksgiving, which was rich pickins for Instagram. Then it celebrated record postings as people rushed to snap their turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. But this time around, the Christmas Poke effect may be at work:
As Josh pointed out in reference to stories of how another photo app from Facebook, Poke, is slipping after an initial burst of interest, people who would have received new iOS devices will be downloading essential apps this week rather than the second wave of nice-to-have apps. The same could apply to apps like Instagram — not just on iOS but Android as well.
– A week and a half ago, we published some data looking at whether Instagram traffic had dropped off as a result of the removal of preview “Cards” on Twitter. The answer: yes, referral traffic went down from Twitter, but Instagram traffic overall appeared to be holding up, at least at that point.
In that post, I noted that any decline could have to do with Twitter, but could also be related to hullabaloo over terms of service; or even a newer version of the app that appears to be getting worse ratings than older versions. The same applies here.
In short, there are a number of reasons for a decline in daily active users at Instagram (some alarming, some seasonal). Yes, it may be that people are voting with their fingers, and if that’s the case it will likely be something that Facebook and Instagram will have to consider as they think of how to make money with the app. But to associate it right now with, say, Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber’s proclivities — as crucial as they are to my own personal sense of what’s important in the world — smells off.
(And yes, I’ve reached out to Instagram, Kevin Systrom and AppData for further clarification. Happy Holidays.)